Weber Shandwick Social Impact Survey Finds 88 Percent of Nonprofits Experimenting with Social Media While Struggling to Demonstrate its Value to their Organizations.
The vast majority of nonprofit organizations (88%) are experimenting with social media to engage key audiences, but a significant majority (79%) are uncertain of how to demonstrate social media’s value for their organizations. Only half (51%) report active use of social media. The results are contained in a new survey by Weber Shandwick’s Social Impact team conducted with KRC Research. The research was conducted among 200 nonprofit and foundation executive directors and senior communications officials in July – August 2009.
The survey findings were released on the new Weber Shandwick Social Impact blog, impact.webershandwick.com.
“We know from our work with nonprofits that most realize the potential of social media and are experimenting with it, but many are not maximizing the full opportunity,” said Paul Massey, Social Impact co-lead.
“This survey validates that there is widespread experimentation, and suggests that, in the future, nonprofits that fully participate in the two-way conversations that make this medium so powerful will reap the greatest benefit.”
Social Media Contributes to Success
The survey found that the vast majority of nonprofit and foundation professionals believe their online presence helps raise awareness (92%), keeps external audiences engaged (86%) and reduces costs relative to traditional media (77%). In addition, social media is seen as successful in helping nonprofits reach broad external audiences (67%). Sixty-one percent say the rewards outweigh the risks. For these reasons, the vast majority (85%) intends to make greater use of social media in the next two years and most (78%) will require additional and deeper social media expertise to keep communicating and garnering support for their work.
Demonstrating Value of Social Media is Among Challenges
Despite predominantly positive perceptions about social media for nonprofits and foundations, several challenges were underscored in the survey. Two-thirds of the nonprofit executives surveyed (67%) believe that traditional media – including coverage in newspapers, magazines, television and radio – are more effective at supporting fundraising efforts than social media (67% vs. 22%). As important, executives in the nonprofit world are more skeptical about social media’s ability to help them connect with hard-to-reach audiences such as donors (45%), media (39%) and policy makers (31%).
“While two-thirds of nonprofit executives believe social media for nonprofits has a positive impact on their communications with external audiences, they are less convinced about social media’s resonance with donors, journalists and policy makers,“ said Social Impact co-lead Stephanie Bluma. “What these results imply is that organizations need to develop more targeted and sustainable digital connections with these critical yet narrower audiences. In the months ahead, digital engagement strategies will need to show value on multiple fronts from brand-building to advocacy to fundraising.”
Notably, the single area where social media is widely believed to be more impactful than traditional media is in mobilizing supporters and advocates (58%), a critically important audience for nonprofits. Yet, despite this firmly-held belief, and the additional survey finding that most nonprofit executives (84%) see the value of social media in connecting with advocates on their behalf, an equally large segment (83%) recognized that social media also makes it easier for advocates to organize independently of nonprofits – a cautionary note for nonprofit executives.
Where is Social Media for Nonprofits Heading?
With nearly 70% of nonprofit professionals projecting their 2010 communications budgets to remain the same or decrease compared to last year, finding the resources and expertise to implement social media strategies is a widely shared challenge. Fifty-two percent of organizations concede they do not have enough staff to manage their current social media outreach and almost two-thirds (64%) report that their organizations do not have social media policies and guidelines in place for employees and board members to engage appropriately online.
Other Key Survey Findings:
* Organizations with annual operating budgets of $25 million or more are more likely to say social media positively impacts their communications with all audiences and that they are good at social media.
* Large and small nonprofits alike believe social media are least likely to assist their outreach to policymakers and donors compared to external audiences.
KRC Research, research partner to Weber Shandwick Social Impact, surveyed 200 nonprofit and foundation executive directors and communications officials via phone between July 29 and August 17, 2009. The margin of error is +/- 6.9 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
About KRC Research
KRC Research is a full-service market research firm that specializes in the kind of research needed for effective communications—communications that reach, engage and persuade. A unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, we have worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them. Staffed with market research professionals from the worlds of political campaigns, consumer marketing, journalism and academia, we are flexible, practical, creative, knowledgeable and fast, combining sophisticated research tools with real-world communications experience. To learn more, please visit www.krcresearch.com.
About Weber Shandwick Social Impact
Weber Shandwick Social Impact builds insight-driven strategic communications programs that bring nonprofit and foundation missions to life, inspire advocates to take action and demonstrate impact. The team, which spans the Weber Shandwick network, includes professionals dedicated to helping private and public sector organizations amplify their voice in key issue debates, advocate on critical causes and inspire donors to give. The team combines the strength of Weber Shandwick’s public affairs, corporate and consumer practices.